It’s been a fun time to be a Spartan this year, and Matt Van Dyk is right in the middle of it.
While the Michigan State football team made the College Football Playoff, Van Dyk, a former standout at St. Clair County Community College, has been enjoying the season on the No. 1-ranked Spartans basketball team.
His two years at MSU couldn’t be much better, helping out the Spartans in practice during a redshirt season during the Final Four run and now being able to play this season.
Between this season and the last one, the most noticeable difference is the improved team chemistry that was helped by the team’s summer trip to Italy.
“The biggest difference at this point is with the trip to Italy got us prepared, and we are a lot closer and well prepared,” Van Dyk said. “The team chemistry is more of a family this year than last year.”
While abroad, the Spartans faced the Italian, Russian and Georgian national teams. It paid off for the Spartans. They jumped out to a program-best 13-0 start before losing at Iowa on Tuesday.
This year’s start to the season has been substantially different than the last when they started 9-4, which included a loss to Texas Southern. Despite the hot start and notoriety, Van Dyk says not much has changed behind the scenes.
“It’s not real different, we are still like it’s always been,” Van Dyk said. “We aren’t thinking past any opponent, but at the same time, it’s a lot more fun … winning is a lot more fun.”
Being able to compete in the games is also a little more enjoyable. Van Dyk has played in eight games this season, including a four-point, three-rebound outing against Maryland Eastern Shore.
As it is with most college basketball players, a huge memory Van Dyk will hold onto for a while is scoring his first career points against Arkansas Pine-Bluff.
“It’s cool the first time I got to go in, and it was a big goal of mine and a big step in my basketball career,” Van Dyk said. “When I got that bucket I didn’t really have time to enjoy it, you just run down and say ‘Alright, what’s next?’”
As a walk-on, it’s hard to imagine it being better than it has been for Van Dyk. If there’s ever been a golden age to be around the MSU athletic scene, this is certainly it.
“It’s awesome,” Van Dyk said. “Michigan State sports, there’s nothing comparable to it … it just seems like you go into every game knowing you are going to win.”